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CHRIS CORRIGAN - The Crooked Mountain Road

CHRIS CORRIGAN - The Crooked Mountain Road
Private Label CCCD002

An album of new music from a new name on the international scene: Chris Corrigan is a Belfast fiddler and sound engineer who is one of several top musicians at the Queens University Sonic Arts department. He did release a CD a few years ago, but I haven't seen it about. This new one is much easier to find, perhaps because it features more of Corrigan's own playing. It also showcases his composing skills, as most of the tunes here are by Chris, although he does borrow a couple from the Irish tradition and there are one or two Scandinavian melodies too. The Crooked Mountain Road is a beautiful recording. Despite pushing the boundaries of Irish music, there are only one or two places where the fence is actually broken and the jagged edges are exposed. Even then, no real damage is inflicted. Chris has a fine sweet tone in his fiddling, perfect for the lyrical jigs and slower pieces which fill most of the nine tracks on this release. The fiddle is joined occasionally by concertina, Irish pipes, flute, sax and trombone, over a backdrop of percussion, guitars and low-key electronics.

Traditional tunes top and tail the album: a slow modulated version of The Kid On The Mountain and a relaxed Hare's Paw to finish. In between it's all Corrigan compositions, with a clear Irish flavour, except for one piece each by Sweden's Maria Jonsson and Finland's Esko Järvelä. Jigs, airs, polkas, waltzes: nothing frenzied, but plenty of meat on the bones of each tune. Chris has a taste for complex rhythms and arrangements. These days it's almost expected that an Irish album will include time signatures such as 5/4, 7/4, 13/8 and so on, so there's nothing too surprising there, but the mixing of rhythms within a single piece is still quite unusual. I think that's what's going on in The Chapel Steps and again in Little Blue, both charming pieces. Unconventional percussion and distortion effects make little forays into several tracks, adding interest and variety without detracting from the tune. The only point where I was jarred out of my enjoyment, perhaps deliberately, was the seemingly arrhythmic Oliver's Polka - I wonder what Chris's son made of this tune dedicated to him! Chris more than makes up for this jolt with the two gorgeous tunes either side and with his final Easy Reel leading into that lazy Hare's Paw. All the information you need, including samples, is at - well worth a look.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 99 of The Living Tradition magazine.